Caritas Anchor House

Working at the heart of homelessness

Homelessness in the UK


Anyone can become homeless. However, certain factors such as relationship breakdown, redundancy, poor mental health, alcohol/substance addiction, and domestic abuse can make homelessness more likely. 

However, the effects of benefit cuts, the housing crisis and increased migration, along with cuts in funding to services, mean the number of people sleeping rough has increased sharply in recent years. Projects often struggle to find the funding they need to do this vital work.


  • Definition of homeless: To be formally recognised as homeless, the person or household must either lack a 'licence to occupy' a home, be unable to access their normal accommodation, or it must be considered unreasonable for them to have to occupy the home they are in. (Adapted from the Housing Act 1996 Part VII para 175)
  • Definition of temporary accommodation: Otherwise known as "interim" or "emergency" accommodation in B&Bs, hostels, bedsits and flats. People who are recognised as homeless by their local authorities are housed in temporary accommodation until their needs have been properly assessed and suitable accommodation found.
  • Definition of rough sleeping: The practice of sleeping, or bedding down, in the open air or in buildings or other places not designed for habitation (such as barns, sheds, car parks, cars, derelict boats or stations). (Adapted from 'Guidance on evaluating the extent of rough sleeping', DCLG, 2007 Revision)


  • More than a quarter of a million people are homeless in England, and in London alone, an average of 1 in 51 people are homeless. (Source: Shelter)
  • 4,134 people are estimated to sleep rough on any one night in England, however this is only a snapshot, and the actual figures are likely to be much higher. (Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics)
  • This figure has increased by 16% from 2015 to 2016 (the 2015 figure was 3,569) and has more than doubled since 2010. (Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics)
  • 57,750 households were accepted as homeless in 2015/2016, this has increased by 6% on 2014/2015. (Source: Statutory homelessness and prevention and relief live tables) 
  • London had 964 people sleeping on its streets on one night in autumn 2016 - 23% of the England total.  The number of rough sleepers in London has more than doubled since 2010. (Source: Rough Sleeping Statistics)
  • 2,561 people slept rough in London between January and March 2016. This is a nine per cent rough sleeping increase on the same quarter in 2015, and since 2010 the number of people sleeping on the streets of London has more than doubled.  (Source: 24dash)
  • 8,096 people were seen sleeping rough in London in 2015/16 which is a 7% increase compared to 2014. (Source: CHAIN)
  • There were 275,000 ‘local authority homelessness case actions’ in 2014/15 – a rise of 34% since 2009/10. Two thirds of all local authorities in England reported that overall service demand 'footfall' had increased in their area in 2014/15. (Source: The homelessness monitor: England 2016)
  • There were 57,750 homelessness acceptances in the financial year 2015-16 – a rise from 54,430 (6 per cent) from 2014-15. This represents the sixth consecutive annual rise. (Source: DCLG)
  • Of these, 19,180 were in London, up 9% from 17,530 during 2014-15. These acceptances represent 33% of the England total. (Source: DCLG)
  • The total number of households in temporary accommodation on 31 March 2016 was 71,540, up 11 per cent on a year earlier, and up 49% since 2010. (Source: DCLG)
  • 73% of people sleeping rough said better advice could have helped. (Source: Analysis from PROMPT 2012)


  • 45% of people sleeping rough in London are UK nationals, and 35% per cent are from Central and Eastern European countries. (Source: Streets of London)
  • 85 per cent of them are male, 70 per cent are white. (Source: Streets of London)
  • Younger adults are at a particular risk of homelessness. In five years the number of young people sleeping rough in London has more than doubled and 8% of 16-24 year olds report recently being homeless. (Source: CHAIN and Crisis)


  • Insecurity in the private rented sector is an increasing cause of homelessness. Termination of private tenancies accounted for 29% of households becoming homeless in 2015. This figure has doubled since 2011. In London, this figure is even higher - with nearly 4 in 10 (39%) households stating loss of a short hold tenancy as the primary reason for homelessness. The loss of  private tenancy is now the number one cause of homelessness in London (Source: Homeless Link and 24dash)
  • Research shows landlords are unwilling to rent to homeless people and those in receipt of benefits – 55% of landlords said they were unwilling to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit, whilst 18% of landlords said they had increased the deposit when renting to someone who was homeless. (Source: Home. No Less Will Do)
  • A quarter of people living in a homeless service were ready to move on, but had not been able to – respondents reported the main barrier to moving on was a lack of suitable accommodation and a lack of affordable housing. (Source: Support for Single Homeless People in England)
  • Newham experienced the biggest rise in property values in 2015 – house prices jumped 22% in the borough. (Source: The Guardian)
  • There has been a 37% increase in the cost of renting a home privately in the last five years. Private rents are forecast to rise by 90% by 2040, more than twice as fast as income. (Source: What will the Housing Market look like in 2040?)
  • At least 104,000 people in Britain have been on waiting lists for council-owned or "arm's length run" homes, such as housing associations, for five years. At least 35,000 have been on the same waiting list for 10 years. (Source: The Mirror)   
  • Housing supply has not kept pace with demand for many decades. In total, 168,210 nw homes were built in 2015/2016, well below the estimated 250,000 required to keep up with the demand. (Source: Live tables on house building: new build dwellings)


  • Only 2% of homeless people are in full-time employment and 12% work part-time. The vast majority of homelessness people want to work – either now or in the future. (Source: Crisis)
  • 60 per cent of homeless people have low or no qualifications, putting over 80 per cent of job vacancies beyond reach, whilst 37% of homeless people have no qualifications at all. (Source: Crisis)
  • Over a third of people using accommodation projects were engaged in education or training in 2015. (Source: Support for Single Homeless People in England)
  • 51% lack the basic literacy skills needed for everyday life, while 55% lack basic maths skills. (Source: Reading Counts: Why English and maths skills matter in tackling homelessness, 2014).


  • Of the people sleeping rough in London, many had one or more support needs: 41 per cent alcohol; 31 per cent drugs. Only 25% have no alcohol, substance use or mental health support needs.  (Source: Crisis)
  • Homeless people experience very poor mental health outcomes, both physical and mental. Up to 80% of homeless people have mental health needs. (Source: Homeless Link: The unhealthy state of homelessness)   
  • The number of people with mental health problems sleeping rough has risen dramatically, tripling in London from 711 people with an identified mental health support need over 12 months in 2009-10 to 2,343, in 2014-15.(Source: The Guardian)
  • On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old, compared to 81 years for the average UK citizen. A homeless rough sleeper is 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the average person. (Source: Streets of London)
  • Two thirds of rough sleepers surveyed said they had been insulted by a member of the public, and one in ten said that they had been urinated on. (Source: Streets of London)
  • Homeless people are 13 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the general public, and 47 times more likely to be a victim of theft. (Source: Streets of London)
  • 32% of people who sleep rough in London have been in prison, 10% in care services, and 9% in the British armed forces. (Source: Crisis)
  • 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. (Source: Mind)
  • Over 900,000 adults of working age in London are affected by a common mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression. (Source: London Mental Health)
  • Only 24% of adults with common mental health problems will receive treatment, compared to 94% of people with diabetes (Source: Bridging the Gap)
  • Mental health causes almost a quarter of our burden of disease (22.8 per cent), yet receives only 11 per cent of NHS funding. (For comparison, cancer causes 15.9 per cent of that burden). (Source: NHS England)
  • Many homeless women have experienced violence - 20% have become homeless to escape violence from someone they know. (Source: Crisis


Being homeless is about more than sleeping rough on the streets - you can be considered homeless for many reasons, including if you live in temporary accommodation, such as a bed and breakfast or hostel, squat,  or are 'sofa surfing' with friends and family. There are just over 35,000 bed spaces in hostels for single homeless people in England. (Source: Homeless Link) This has reduced by 4,000 over the last four years and over half of homelessness services have seen their funding cut. 

Hidden homelessness is widespread in London, and there are an estimated 400,000 hidden homeless people in the UK. 

Although hidden homeless people do have a roof over their heads, they still have no place to call their own, and living in temporary conditions can put undue strain of individuals, and potentially increase their existing needs.  

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